National Newswatch

Livestock and cropping numbers are up.


Ottawa—The first data emerging from the 2021 Census of Agriculture shows there were 189,874 farms last year, a drop of 1.9 per cent from 2016, says Statistics Canada.

While total farm acreage decreased by 3.2 per cent from 2016, the total area for hay and field crops increased by 0.3 per cent to 92.9 million acres, the Agency said. The number of head reported for major livestock categories has also increased modestly since 2016.

The 65,135 oilseed and grain farms accounted for 34.3 per cent of the farms in 2021 followed by beef and feedlots at 20.9 per cent. These two classes of farms accounted for 82.7 per cent of total farm area—totaling 127.1 million acres.

StatsCan said the data showed industry consolidation and aging of farm operators has continued. “At the same time, the agriculture industry is adapting and modernizing, with higher rates of technology adoption, renewable energy production, use of direct marketing solutions, and sustainable farming practices.”

The data also suggested that the livestock and crop sectors “have remained quite stable and even increased modestly since 2016, suggesting that farmers have proven to be resilient in the face of COVID-19 challenges. The industry has also been characterized by the emergence of niche sectors, as evidenced by the increase in the total reported area for greenhouses.”

Farms have been evolving into increasingly sophisticated businesses that harmonize automation, modernization and production operations. “As a result, many farms have consolidated and become increasingly larger both in terms of sales and number of employees. Conversely, smaller and mid-sized farms are declining in Canada, thereby impacting the rural landscape and profile of Canadian regions,” StatsCan said.

Continuing the trend of farm consolidation from the previous census, the proportion of farms in the top two sales classes increased, while the number of smaller farms declined. The proportion of farms with sales of $1 million or more in 2020 was 9.9 per cent up from 7.2 per cent in 2015.

Farms in the top sales classes also account for the largest share of total farm operating revenues and a larger share of total farm employees. For example, in 2021, farms reporting at least $2 million in sales accounted for 51.5 per cent of total farm operating revenues. This compared with 41.5 per cent in 2016.

The proportion of farm operators aged 55 and older grew by 6 percentage points from the previous census. In2016, 54.5 per cent of operators were aged 55 and older, increasing to 60.5 per cent in 2021. Conversely, Canada’s share of young operators was 8.6 per cent, down slightly from 9.1 per cent in 2016.

The number of farms with successions plans increased by 6,673 in 2021 compared to 2016 bringing the number of farms with plans to 12 per cent of the total.

The number of female operators increased for the first time since 1991 with 79,795 female farm operators reported in 2021 up from 77,970 in 2016. “In 2021, 30.4 per cent of total farm operators were female, up from28.7 per cent in 2016.”

The agriculture industry is one that must always adapt quickly to multiple challenges, such as extreme weather events, trade disputes and fluctuating prices. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic added to these challenges in the form of labour shortages, disruptions in the food supply chain, and rising input prices. All of these issues play a role in the well-being of farm operators. In view of these challenges, collecting information about the status and resiliency of the agricultural sector is important.

The price of land is an important factor in the investment and management decisions of farms, particularly in an environment increasingly defined by large market players, StatsCan said. Strong commodity prices, low interest rates and a growing demand for housing in urban areas have been identified as contributing factors to the rising value of farmland in Canada.

The reported total market value of land and buildings for farms in Canada increased by 2.7 per cent in constant 2021 dollars from the previous census, totaling $603.8 billion in2021. The market value of owned land, buildings and fixed equipment in 2021 increased by 19.1 per cent to $420.9 billion. The market value of land and buildings rented from others or governments totaled $182.9 billion in 2021, up 32.0 per cent from 2016.

The market value of all farm vehicles, machinery and equipment increased by 3.9 per cent from the previous census, reaching $64.4 billion in 2021.

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